1998 Kumbha Mela (Haridwar):


The 1998 Kumbha Mela at Haridwar was a great Mela, right to the very end. The final moment came at the Railroad Station as I was waiting to depart. The station was crowded, but not uncomfortably so. People were seated on their bundles, close but not packed. Everyone knew that once the train pulled in and everyone crammed onto it, any hope of comfort would soon be gone.

With this in mind, I set out toward the end of the platform to relieve myself one last time before the train arrived. Nobody was sitting within two feet of the edge of the platform beside the track. Thus I followed along the platform edge, unhindered, until I encountered the monkey.

The monkey was a big one. He planted himself right in the middle of the clear path beside the track and blocked my way. I stared at him; he glared back at me. He began making monkey faces and monkey noises at me; I made monkey faces and monkey noises back at him. It was a standoff; neither of us was ready to give.

Then I decided to employ standard procedures to resolve the situation: I thumbed my nose at the monkey. During the Mela, I had been living in the jungle north of Haridwar, surrounded by monkeys. Whenever the monkeys got out of hand, I would thumb my nose at them and they would run for the trees.

This monkey was no innocent jungle monkey, but a wily old railroad station monkey, who would not yield. Thumbing my nose brought my hands high. With a quick low jump [Footnote 1] he grabbed the bottom of my cloth and pulled. My cloth came undone but I managed to catch hold of it. The monkey pulled at one end and I pulled at the other. Luckily the cloth was strong and didn't tear. I shortened my grip and gave a good hard yank. The monkey let go. Otherwise I would have been swinging a fifty-pound monkey around my head.

Defeated, the monkey ran across the tracks. I shook out the cloth and wrapped it about myself. Fortunately, India is a place where it's perfectly acceptable for a sadhu to be seen in public wearing only a loin cloth. I continued my way to the end of the tracks, relieved myself and returned to the group which had been watching my bags. Soon the train arrived and the crush began. So, it was a great Mela right to the end.


1. "The Monkey Jump is worth eight points." Go Proverbs Illustrated, [Return]